The New Debate on Torture - A Challenge for Human Rights Education

  • Nils Rosemann


Human Rights Education (HRE) involves more than knowledge of rights and wrongs. It developed to enable individuals to act in an informed way to protect human rights or to prevent human rights viola-tions. HRE is therefore both empowering and restraining in order to protect human dignity. Freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading practices is central to human dignity. This article starts from the universal and absolute prohibition of torture under international human rights law. While considering the contradictive relationship between war and torture the article focuses on the war against terror as defined by the US administration as "new type" of warfare "that requires" a "new think-ing in the law of war". From this point of departure the article elaborates the challenges to human rights education developing from the debate on the legalization of torture. While comparing the dis-cussion and application of law in Germany and U.S.A. the author argues for a more coherent interna-tional human rights protection system and for the establishment of a comprehensive accountability mechanism within international human rights law. Particular attention will be paid to artificial loopholes in international law which facilitate a lack of accountability. The article also focuses on the arguments for legalizing and legitimating torture so as to highlight how HRE can be employed to foster the norma-tive understanding of human rights such as the right to freedom from torture. By highlighting the moral, political, legal and social dimensions to human rights standards, it will be shown that HRE can help to close loopholes in international law and counteract arguments against the absolute prohibition of tor-ture.